Do you scaffold your curriculum, atmosphere and life? Scaffolding is a newer concept in the homeschooling world, but a powerful and important one! When we think about lesson planning and curricular development, we can easily become overwhelmed by the vast amount of resources and approaches to any given lesson or study. But by using scaffolding in planning both the short- and long-term, we can make a plan that is reasonable and approachable without being overwhelmed.
What is scaffolding? Scaffolding is a tool used in construction, repair, and cleaning to help workmen reach the work at proper elevation and location. It supports and protects them so they can focus on the work at hand, not their balance or safety. It analogizes beautifully into the work we do in education. We build a scaffold – whether in a lesson or a course of study – so our students can learn at appropriate levels and locations.
Charlotte Mason, a educational philosopher in the early 20th Century, posited that because children are born persons we have three instruments available to us for teaching said persons. These instruments teach without prodding, bribery, or guilt trips. She says,
Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments–the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”
Taking these two ideas together, we can see Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life as the scaffolding to help your students learn and grow into maturity.
Scaffolding as Atmosphere
Just as the workmen standing on, and tethered to, construction scaffolding are working at the right place in the right time and protected from the elements, so scaffolding a lesson provides the right placement in time and space for our children. But don’t discount the “protected from the elements” part.
The atmosphere within a homeschool and an individual lesson matters greatly. When I talk about atmosphere, I mean the ambience, the feeling of the teacher and the general attitudes toward a lesson or subject. If math isn’t your thing, what are you conveying to your student about algebra? The attitudes and values of the teacher matter to a successful lesson.
Scaffolding as Discipline
The precision necessary to build scaffolding to promote the safety of the workmen is so important. Same with your lessons. The base plate of the scaffold must be set firmly on the foundation; the standards – the vertical poles – must be fitted into the base so they are plumb and true; the ledgers – the horizontal boards – must be perpendicular so they can be level. Extra braces may be required, but the general plan of a scaffold allows the weight of the scaffolding and the workers to be transferred to the base. By building with discipline, level upon level up the building, scaffolding becomes the right place for the workers.
We must have the discipline of doing school regularly; of teaching good learning habits like observation, attention, and wonder; and increasing the work at appropriately incremental levels of study. In the elementary years, if you had taught single digit addition every year, your student would not be ready for Algebra today. If you had started with Adler’s How to Read a Book in elementary school, I suspect they wouldn’t be ready to do so because phonics would have been more proper.
Within an individual lesson, there is a basic structure as well. It provides the discipline to learn. We introduce or remember, read or observe, narrate or recreate, and then discuss. This very general structure can look very different dependent upon the setting, age, or study, but it’s how we mostly learn. It’s a discipline.
Scaffolding as Life
When Mason says Education is a Life, she means that we take in lifegiving ideas and incorporate them into our mind just as we take in food and the stomach incorporates the nutrients into our bodies. When we put living ideas before our students on the scaffold, they choose which ones to add to their edifice. Does it matter whether they choose William the Conqueror, 1066, or the Battle of Hastings? Not really. Students may build with one, two, or all three blocks. What is important is that we’ve provided them with the ideas to choose from – and that the scaffolding they and the blocks are standing on is sturdy enough to carry the weight.
Scaffolding is Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life. It allows the teacher to make certain her student is at the right position for learning and has the right building blocks at hand to grow and mature. At ladydusk, there is an ongoing series about Scaffolding and the Homeschool Mom (http://ladydusk.blogspot.com/2017/08/scaffolding-and-homeschool-mom.html), if you have found this post helpful, I hope you’ll check it out.
Dawn Garrett lives in Central Ohio with her husband Jason and their three always-homeschooled children, ages 13, 12, and 11. In her homeschool, she and her children learn about God and His cosmos by studying the seven liberal arts in order to know Him better, imitate Him and His ways, and share about Him with others. She scaffolds lessons by using the AmblesideOnline curriculum. Her home blog – about books school and life – has been at <a href=”http://ladydusk.blogspot.com”>ladydusk</a> for 15 years.
She is the author of the free ebook: <a href=”http://ladydusk.blogspot.com/p/ebook.html”>I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students</a>.
For help in creating a High School program for your student that is scaffolded for optimal learning, check out our Essential Academic Advising Program. Our Catalog has dozens of courses that are a perfect compliment to your homeschool program!